By Eric Peterson | Jun 06, 2022
Welding evaluation technology
Progenero Products is built around ultrasonic matrix phased array technology developed by EWI for checking spot welds in automotive manufacturing.
"EWI was funded by Honda to create this technology that would be good for spot weld testing," says Morrison. "We bought that technology and licensed it from EWI and created a product around that."
That product is SpotSight. "It has an electronic probe that you put up against a spot weld, just a little round nugget," says Morrison. "You're ultrasonically seeing the depth and the circumference of that spot weld."
Quality control for automotive spot welding is no small task. "An average car these days has between 6,000 and 8,000 spot welds," says Morrison. "There's a necessity to make sure those welds are strong for product integrity and safety."
The status quo often involves a crew of employees destroying parts every single day. "It's very slow, very expensive, you're wasting a product, and in the meantime, you're making many other parts while guys are trying to tear one of them apart to see if you're making good parts. It can also be dangerous."
"Here's an example. One company, they make parts all day, and they have eight guys during one shift tearing one of those parts apart. It takes them eight hours with eight guys. With this system, it would take one person 30 to 45 minutes. How many parts did you make that might be bad in that time frame?"
Launched in 2016, the SpotSight has since been reworked with feedback from Honda. The company touts the new iteration as user-friendly, doesn't require gel couplant like some ultrasonic technologies, and easy to integrate with automation. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled operations and delayed the re-release of the roughly $90,000 device until early 2022.
Honda remains a customer, and the major automakers and the supply chain are squarely in the company's target market. "We've got a lot of interest from a few new companies that are looking at using it," says Morrison, noting that Progenero is also in discussions with potential resellers.
Based at the Warehouse Business Accelerator at the Forge Campus in Loveland, Progenero is using contract electronics manufacturer Vergent Products in Loveland to build the SpotSight units. The company won a $179,667 Advanced Industries grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in 2022.
Morrison joined Progenero in October 2021. "It seemed like it was ripe for this to take off and do really well," he says of the move. "With the right marketing, it could really take off. It's a very valuable product for a lot of people competitively, and it's a very good product compared to what else is out there in the market.. There are others that are similar, but ours does it better and faster and more accurately."
Challenges: "The economy and the supply chain issues that we're seeing just in general for all businesses can have a significant impact on us if the auto industry slows down or they can't get chips to make parts," says Morrison. "If the auto industry can't make cars, what do they need a product to test what they're making?"
Opportunities: "The market is hundreds of millions if we can tap it all," says Morrison. "The market is anybody who uses spot welding. The auto industry is very big in that."
Whether they're an OEM or a supplier, automotive manufacturers "see the benefits outright," he adds, noting that many can easily recognize $250,000 in annual savings with the SpotSight. "Eight people time eight hours a day, every day of the week, that adds up really quick."
He also sees fertile terrain in aerospace, noting, "In cars and airplanes especially, they want to make sure the product works really well, is secure, is safe."
Needs: "People is going to be our critical issue going forward," says Morrison, citing needs for engineers and sales and marketing talent. "Other than that, it's just doing the basics of getting our product known and out there to potential buyers."